When you know people well enough to discern that you are attracted to them, you might feel the urge to express your feelings by showing affection or displaying favor toward them. Signs of affection may be something tangible, such as a small gift or a kind note. You could express affection by doing something beneficial for the person, like helping with a difficult task or offering to run an errand. Affection can be expressed verbally, such as paying someone a sincere compliment or confiding in a trusted friend. We show our affection by taking time to go for a walk or going to a movie with the object of our affection. The most common expressions of affection are a pat on the back, a gentle caress, a hug, or a kiss. (Affection can, of course, progress into more sexually intimate acts).
Gary Chapman discusses each of these forms of affection in his book, Five Languages of Love, where he categorizes these expressions of into five “languages” which can be spoken not only to spouses but also to friends and children: gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, and physical touch.
As a married woman, you are free to show all the affection you want to the man you are married to, but what about to someone else? When is it appropriate to express affection to another man and when is it not? How do you know the difference? Where do you draw the line?
While I can’t provide cut-and-dried dos and don’ts, I can suggest ways to check your heart in the matter. Prayerfully ask yourself these questions before deciding to express affection to a man other than your husband:
* What is my motive for making this expression of affection? Is it appropriate?
* Am I trying to show genuine appreciation for this individual, or do I have a hidden agenda?
* Am I using affection to draw this person into a deeper relationship?
* Could this expression be misinterpreted in such a way that this man would be confused, tempted, or suspicious of my motives?
* Is this expression of affection one that I wouldn’t mind my spouse knowing about?
If you’ve asked God to reveal your motives and you’ve honestly answered each of these questions and have a clean heart, then it’s probably okay to express your affection to this person. But if your motives are questionable, then don’t show this person your affection. Simply treat him in a normal, friendly way and show him no preferential treatment. If you find yourself unable to limit your interactions in such a way when in this person’s presence, that should be a red flag. Seek an accountability friendship to guard your heart against compromise and try to steer as clear from this person as possible until you feel more in control of your emotions.
If you are single, discerning where to draw the line can be even more confusing. If you are interested in a potentially fulfilling relationship with someone, you want to appear open without appearing desperate. If you are not interested in a romantic relationship with this person, you want to avoid sending signals that you are. And whether you are interested in a serious relationship or not, you want to avoid expressing affection in any sort of sexually provocative way. So, here are some questions a single woman should ask before expressing affection to a man:
* Is this person unattached? Does this person have a “significant other” in his life who would be concerned with how I express affection toward him?
* Is my expression of affection in line with the current level of my relationship with this person?
* Do I sense that this man has personal feelings toward me that I do not reciprocate? If so, would signs of affection give him the impression that I am interested in more than a friendship when, in fact, I am not?
* Could this expression of affection be interpreted as seductive, or does it truly reflect godly character?
If you have a clear conscience after prayerfully and honestly asking yourself these questions, then feel free to express your affection to this person in appropriate ways.
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Excerpted from Every Woman’s Battle: Discovering God’s Plan for Sexual and Emotional Fulfillment by Shannon Ethridge. Copyright 2003. All Rights Reserved. Published by WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO 80921. Used by Permission. Not to be copied without Publisher’s prior written approval.